Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Watching the sky

I’m in northern Michigan watching the sky. This makes me smile. I lost count of the number of shooting stars I saw last night. Never, of course, while my camera was recording.

Still, it was fun.

One more night and I’ll head home. Some little short furry thing is going to be upset if she finds out where I was. I’m camping in our favorite site at her favorite park. But she got air conditioning and I slept on the ground. I think it’s a wash.

She might not feel the same.


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Bits of gold flit over the pond

Last night, while eating dinner, I noticed a bunch of little birds, darting around like bats, over the pond across the street. What caught my attention was that they were glowing in the early evening sunlight.

What ARE those?

There’s a lot of shrubs and trees between me and the pond so I couldn’t get a very good look. But there seemed to be a flurry of unusual activity. All I usually see over there is one kngfisher, a heron and sometimes an egret.

Now I was seeing dozens of birds darting up and down and around above the water.

Darting around like bats, it was hard to get them in focus.

So after dinner I put my long lens on the camera and wandered over there. I tried to stay in the shadows so as not to spook the birds that were wheeling high overhead, then darting down near the water and back toward the trees.

Shooting into the sun was creating unrecognizable sillouettes.

With the sun so low they were lit up like gold ornaments, but I couldn’t get a good look at them myself. Staring into the sun I couldn’t even get the camera to focus on them, no matter how high I set the shutter speed.

A little bit of a hint here.

I was just about to give up when I noticed several of the birds were roosting in the dead branchs of a tree.

I think these might be….

But every time I moved to get a better angle they’d fly away. I wasn’t sure, but I was beginning to think I knew what they were.

Flashing a wing at me.

The distinctive shape. The flash of yellow on the tail.

If you love birds you’ve probably already figured out what they were. I never got really good pictures, but it was fun trying.

And if you guessed cedar waxwings you’d be right!

I got much better images of cedar waxwings last year at a rest stop, but this little photo shoot, resulting in not much more than out of focus blobs, was fun too.

And then the sun lit up the thistle.


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Things that make me smile from my living room window.

After my three day adventure in Michigan’s thumb I settled back at home, grateful for a more comfortable bed, my husband and my Katie-girl.

I forgive you, mama, for leaving me behind. But I expect a double reward for posing for you now.

Still, it’s hard for me to take pictures for three days and then just put the camera away. Especially when there’s so much going on in my own backyard.

Two turkey mamas bring the youngsters in for breakfast.

Do you want to see? Well settle in, because this might get a little long. But I guarantee you’ll be smiling just like me.

One of our resident deer watch the turkey breakfast, considering whether or not to crash the party.

The weather was changing and the birds seemed to realize it. They were in a frenzy at the feeders.

A juvenile blackbird holds his own even when the big birds show up.

Lots of comings and goings and squawking and jostling for position.

The youngster stood up to all the birds, even the bully grackle.

And then it started to rain, the first rain we’ve had in many weeks.

We got a steady, all day, summer rain. It was marvelous.

But rain didn’t keep my birds from coming in.

Resting between courses.

I especially enjoyed watching this young oriole.

Do you have any good food for me, lady?

I think she may have a cognitive problem. She spends lots of time at the hummingbird feeder.

This is my private buffet.

She works very hard at trying to get to the sugar water.

Maybe there’s something under here?

But eventually she’ll move over to the oriole feeder. If she thinks I’m laughing at her she gets a little bent out of shape.

Look lady, I was just exploring my options.

Meanwhile, the juvinille red winged blackbird watches everything from his elevated perch.

I don’t know why they are all excited about some damp oranges.

We still have one adult male oriole stopping by. When he’s eating the youngsters aren’t so welcome at the feeder.

I brought you into this world and I can take you out!

They try to quietly swoop in for a bite, but he’s not having it.

Maybe I can grab a bite on the go.

He never stays long though, so if they are patient they can get back to enjoying lunch.

Wait, what’s that over there?

Keeping watch.

The chickadee stays out of the orioles way by feeding at the finch feeder. I hardly ever see any goldfinches these days, but the chickadee eats plenty.

It’s much more peaceful over here. Nom, nom, nom.

And little Miss Confused checks out the hummingbird feeder again.

Look lady, there’s sugar water in here and I’m going to get it. Now leave me alone!

The other young orioles are fine with that, leaves more oranges for them.

Personally, I think she’s crazy. But I guess every family has one.

So now you know why I’m smiling on a dim, rainy summer day. Oh yea, there’s this too.

We call him the flying squirrel because he leaps great distances to get to lunch.

I hope you’re smiling by now. You should write a post about what makes you smile and link it to Trent’s weekly smile post. He’ll recap next Monday and share it with lots of other smiling people!

Thanks Trent! You make us all smile too!

I’d smile more if all these youngsters would leave my lunch alone!


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Starry starry night

When last I left you I had crashed for a nap inside my tent while a thunderstorm rained down and the wind blew the trees above me, brushing clouds across the sky. I fell asleep believing there would be no stars that night, my last night near the Dark Sky Park.

But when I woke, an hour or so later, the wind had stopped, the rain no longer pounded down and there was just a tiny peak of sunshine making the wet leaves glow. Maybe there was still a chance.

Yep, the sun shines to set another day.

But of course, first I had to sit through another sunset. Such an inconvenience.

Everyone was enjoying the warm summer evening.

I was not alone on the beach. Lots of families were settled in for the show, or playing in the water. They were fun to watch. I remember playing like this when I was a kid.

Did you ever walk on your hands in a lake, your legs sticking out into the evening air?

The air was warm and the sky was pretty clear. I began to get excited about seeing some stars. If the sun would ever go down. I posted on Facebook that it was the slowest sunset ever. I messed around taking pictures of nothing much just to pass the time.

I liked the way the light played on the sand filled with footprints.

And then finally. FINALLY!

The sun sighs goodnight.

Soon I was back in the car and headed six miles north to the Dark Sky Park. The parking lot was full of cars and people when I arrived. Everyone figured that tonight was the night we’d see a meteor shower. Of course that pesky moon was still up there, a half moon never shown so bright, but I was just glad there were no clouds.

Once it was dark I grabbed my camera, already set on the tripod, with manual settings appropriate for night photography, and my little red flashlight and ventured out on the walkways through the dunes. Such a beautiful night.

Amazing how many stars there are, even when it’s not completely dark.

I was hoping for lots of shooting stars, and in fact while I was shooting the image below a huge one raced across the sky just off to my right. I hoped the camera caught it but it was just outside the range. People all over the park let up a big cry and applauded. It was soooooo wonderful, it looked like something out of a movie.

The light on the fence and the shadows were created by the moonlight. See the red light over on the right? Another stargazer enjoying the night sky.

I think I saw a couple of other, much smaller shooting stars, but was never quite sure what I had seen out of the corner of my eye. In fact I wouldn’t normally show you this image, but I think it’s interesting if not perfect. You can see the branches lit up by the moon, and what is probably a satellite in the upper corner. I didn’t see any of that when I took the image. I was just practicing getting shots without shake.

Taking pictures at night, you never know what you’ll see when you look at them on a big screen later.

There were lots of people there but by 11 there were only a few of us. I thought I’d wait until the moon set, but that wasn’t going to be until after 2:30 a.m. By 1:00 a.m. I was the only one left, and I decided I wasn’t even sure where the Milky Way was, or if it would be visible and I wasn’t comfortable being there alone…so I packed it in and headed back to my campsite.

A beautiful night.

I wasn’t sure what I had captured, though I knew it wasn’t what I had hoped to get. Still, I’m so glad I went and I’m pretty happy with the few decent images I got. I had to lighten these up quite a bit to put them into WordPress. The original images were pretty dark when I did my preview. I maybe have over lightened them here. I suppose everyone’s computer screen will show them differently. I think a lot of night photography, once you figure out the manual settings on the camera, will come down to figuring out how to process them. I’m still working on that.

I had to stop and take this picture, the barn was so beautiful.

I slept well that night, and in the morning packed up and headed South toward home. Right through all that farmland. With all those barns.

Barn and hawk.

Yep, had to stop a few times on the way. I’m sure you don’t mind.

I’ll go back to the Dark Sky park again someday, preferably when the moon isn’t up all night and the Milky Way is. And meanwhile I’ll mess around with the images I have to see how I can make them even more exciting. So you’ll think you’ve been there!

But you really should try to get there yourself. If you pick the right night you won’t be disappointed!

From the old days, still standing straight and tall.


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Day 2 of camping during a pandemic

I left you at midnight feeling disappointed on my first night of camping, in a dark and cloudy parking lot up in the thumb of Michigan’s mitten, with no stars in sight. After all, the entire purpose of this trip was to watch a predicted meteor shower in a dark sky park.

Certainly the small plot of dirt squeezed between two other equally small plots of dirt that masqueraded as a campsite was nothing to write home about and no reason to visit.

I should have gone into Grindstone City (the city part is a misnomer) because I hear there’s a store that sells awesome ice cream there.

Still.

The night was warm and with no schedule to follow I slept in until almost 10, as did my camping neighbors on both sides. I enjoyed my bowl of cereal and blueberries and spent a couple hours reading undisturbed. Not such a shabby vacation after all.

By noon I was ready to go exploring. After all, I was in farm country!

There’s just something about wide open spaces.

I found myself driving around big country blocks, sometimes multiple times, looking for illusive barns. Which actually weren’t so illusive.

I went around the block twice to get this shot. It’s the sweetest little stone barn with a tin roof. I think someone is living in it as a home.

There were barns everywhere!

This was one of two barns I saw with the quilt square on the side. The other one wasn’t in a safe spot for me to stop.

But eventually I found myself sitting at a picnic pavilion along the shores of the water again. It’s hard for me to stay away from water for very long.

There was a private campground out here, but no one was using this shady spot but me and the birds.

The seagulls shared it with me, after a bit of screeching they lifted off and flew out for an afternoon float on the beautiful blue water.

It was a beautiful day for flight.

I have to admit I didn’t get much reading done there, the view was too pretty. It was nice just to sit and watch the birds bob and the light on the water dance.

The colors of our Great Lakes never cease to amaze me.

And there was the lighthouse here too — even though it wasn’t open it was fun to explore the grounds. Last time I was here with Katie it was raining and we did a mad dash to get a picture then headed right back to the car.

I can never resist a lighthouse.

But mostly I was waiting for the sun to go down, so I headed back to camp in anticipation of a clear evening and bright stars. Before going to my campsite I figured I’d go check the beach, see what was happening.

This is what was happening:

As I walked down the stairs to the beach a bit of remaining sun hit this sailboat and lit it up. I squealed. Out loud.

A storm front was bearing down from the north! The weather guy hadn’t mentioned any storm front moving through! What was this? And had I left the windows of my tent open to the weather?

The sailor and I head for safety as thunder begins to sound the alarm.

After taking a few dozen shots I ran back up the stairs and to my car and drove as fast as I could through the crowded campground to my site. There I found the neighbors hurriedly packing things away and talking about ‘rain in 5 minutes’ I threw my chair into the back of the car, grabbed some fruit and my book and dived into my tent as the rain began.

I have to admit I took a nap while still wondering…

…would there be stars tonight? Would I be smiling in the dark? Or would it be another starless night?

Stay tuned.

Day two. At least I still had the barns.


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Camping during a pandemic

I’m just home from a short 3 day camping trip in the tip of Michigan’s thumb. It was my first camping trip outside my backyard of the season and I went to spend some time at a dark sky park that’s tucked into the dune grass along Saginaw Bay a few miles up the road from the state park campground.

A pretty minimal site, but I wasn’t there for the camping.

It was a last minute decision when our local weather person predicted clear skies and good views of a meteor shower.

I wandered on the drive up to my campsite on Tuesday afternoon through miles and miles of flat farmland which was filled with….you guessed it….barns!

You can’t beat red barns and puffy clouds!

So, while you might think this post would be filled with dark skies and bright stars you’d be wrong. At least for now.

The wheat is already harvested, mostly it’s soy beans and corn waiting to ripen now.

I knew you’d want to see the barns, it’s been way too long since I did a post about barns, and they are one of my favorite things to hunt down.

This was my favorite barn of the trip up, but notice the sky is filling with clouds.

And once I arrived at my campsite I had to go check out the dark sky park, to make strategic plans about where I might want to set up for prime star gazing.

Lots of low dunes and a few trees might make the perfect place for star gazing.

It’s a pretty little park with a huge parking lot and a viewing platform. But I found the low dunes and grasses more interesting.

I didn’t notice this dragonfly when I took the shot. But I like that he photo-bombed my image.

I also noticed all the clouds accumulating and wondered whether I’d have clear skies that night. But the weather guy said I would, so I tried not to worry.

If I weren’t there for stars I’d have been thrilled with the beautiful clouds.

That evening the sun went down amid the clouds in a pretty little show.

Waiting on the sun to sink.

I sat on a platform overlooking the Bay. Last year in June Katie and I visited this park, sat right here to watch the sun set. I was missing my girl, but it was much too hot for her to go camping with me. She was home enjoying air conditioning with her dad.

A nice place to watch the sky turn colors.

I went down to the beach to explore a little as I waited. High water in the Great Lakes have turned the beach into such a narrow strip of sand you could hardly call it a beach at all.

This split rail fence used to mark the beginning of the beach. Now it’s part of the bay.

The sky was pretty, but I was impatient for the show to be over so that I could scoot up to the dark sky park and see what I was there to see.

Just a bit north of the actual sun the clouds were turning pink.

Finally the sun gave up it’s grip on the day and settled with a sigh into the water.

The end of a pretty day.


The clouds seemed to be dispersing, so I was hopeful as I headed up the the night sky park. There were perhaps a dozen cars filled with other people hoping to see some meteor action.

I was hoping for stars.

And as the sky got dark an immediate problem became evident. The half moon was high in the sky and shining brightly. I checked my phone and learned that the moon would set at 1:30. I figured I could wait it out. But the longer we all sat there the more clouds moved in until even the bright moon was obscured. By midnight I gave up and headed back to camp for some sleep, not having taken a single shot.

I had one more night there, and I just knew the sky would be clear! The weather guy said so!

Stay tuned.

At least the barns were pretty.


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Coincidental photo challenges

I’m just back today, Thursday, which is the day Cee puts out her black & white challenge and Nancy issues her photo challenge.

And guess what? I have a shot of my latest camping trip that will fit each of them! One shot, two challenges! Cee wants to see any light source, and Nancy wants to see a tower.

And just yesterday I was here:

This is the Pt. Aux Barques lighthouse, one of the ten oldest lighthouses in the United States. It’s located at the tip of Michigan’s thumb, and thoughit wasn’t open yesterday, due to Covid, it’s a beautiful tower and a beautiful light even if all I got to do was walk around outside.

I haven’t had time to look at the photos I took on this quick trip north to watch the stars. Stay tuned.


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Aha! I KNEW you missed me!

Katie here. Finally. Mama told me that since I was getting older and not going on any adventures lately that I was obsolete. Yep, I think that’s the word she used. Might have been redundant, it was a big word that I had to look up and I didn’t like it one bit.

This is me walking away from mama cause she asked me to sit for a picture. I’m a princess. She forgets that.

Anyway, I thought I should check mama’s blog and see what she’s been doing, cause it hasn’t been with me, that’s for sure! Looks like she’s been having fun…and with CATS! I thought I smelled cat on her when she came home last weekend, but I was napping when she arrived and really, it seemed like a lot of work to bark at her so I just went back to sleep.

No, I’m not too upset by her taking a get away without me, cause I really don’t like cats and I’m pretty sure that Ringo dude would have wiped the floor with me, so it’s just as well she left me with daddy. Daddy and I are buddies, we have lots of fun when mama is away.

Don’t tell her I said that.

Ok, mama. I’ll stand for a photo, but I’m not sitting.

No, what I’m upset about is that some of my fans, namely Miss Debbie and Miss Loisajay, asked about me and mama didn’t even tell me! They said the pictures of flowers from our garden would look better if I was included. Well of course they would! I am a princess and a princess always enhances any decor, inside or out.

So anyway, yesterday I gave mama a scare, just to get even with her ignoring me. Yep, we were on our walk around the yard after supper and mama was letting me stick my nose into whatever I wanted (frankly I think she was feeling guilty about the ignoring thing) and she was contemplating the green trees and blue sky when she thinks she saw me grab a berry off a nightshade plant. She lunged at me to pry my mouth open (which I do not allow, by the way) and she thinks she saw me swallow.

This is Davis Lake. My park overlooks it, which is why it’s called the Davis Lake Overlook park. I just call it Katie’s Park II

Yep, mama was in full on panic then. She picked me up and she raced inside and she looked up nightshade and found a site that said even two berries could kill a toddler. Oh my dog! She called my dad who wasn’t home, and then she called the vet to get the emergency number and then she called the emergency vet office where she was put on hold.

Mama is not very patient.

Finally they told her someone would call her back. Mama paced. I, however was very calm and took a nap beside the sofa. The vet tech called her in about ten minutes and told her they didn’t have a protocol for knowing how much of any certain plant could damage any sized dog and she should call animal poison control. Then the vet tech went on with a lengthy spiel about why they couldn’t help mama, and mama cut them right off and asked for the phone number. Did I mention mama is not very patient?

This is me smiling because I’m having fun.

She called poison control which had a long prerecorded message about what the vet would ask about and then said it would cost $75 on a credit card before a vet would speak to her. Mama hung up and started researching how to make me throw up.

Then daddy arrived home and they gave me something that tasted terrible and almost instantly I threw up most of my supper and there wasn’t any berry. Mama and daddy decided they’d just watch me for a little bit before they spent $75 to talk to a vet when maybe mama didn’t really see me eat that berry.

I told them they could watch me all they wanted, but I was going to go sleep on my new princess bed that daddy got me and if they could please be quiet while they watched me I’d appreciate it.

I walked right up to the camera cause I wanted a treat. Mama said that was OK and rubbed my ears.

And I also mentioned that I’d probably be really hungry about 4 a.m. and maybe they should consider being nice to me and feeding me breakfast early. Because they owed me.

So this morning I was just fine, even at 4 a.m. when mama got up with me and let me have a little something to eat. And later in the morning she took me to one of my parks for a short walk, cause, as I may have mentioned, she owes me.

I let her take one artsy-fartsy picture.

And that’s all the excitement around here. I didn’t eat the stinking berry, I never do stuff like that, and mama should have known better. But mama says better safe than sorry sweetie. I don’t know what that means, but I do know a princess does not like to throw up in front of her subjects.

Mama says I’m getting grey hair. I told her she should worry about her own hair and leave mine alone.

So let’s not do that again any time soon, OK mama?

Home, mama! (but thanks for the walk too)

Glad we got that straightened out.

Your girl, Katie.

That short little walk was just perfect for a princess like me!


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When you get to see a comet you can’t help but smile

Sometimes stuff just works out.

Last week I had an impromptu opportunity to go north to visit a friend who lives in what I call my “Happy Place,” along the shores of Lake Michigan. I haven’t been in a more than a year, but it’s still just as beautiful as I remember.

I’m rarely here in summer, this is the most people I’ve ever seen on the beach!

Since we’ve both been pretty careful to stay away from crowds of people we felt comfortable being in each other’s company, though we spent almost 100% of the time outside. Trust me, that is not a sacrifice.

I left lower Michigan under blue skies and temperatures in the 80s. Five hours later I pulled into her driveway and it was 62 and raining. Suddenly the shorts and Tshirt I wore seemed pretty skimpy.

Stormy weather greeted me upon arrival.

Still, it was beautiful.

I was up there to introduce my friend to another friend of mine who has just moved into the community. I think they have several things in common and might enjoy each other’s company. And just by coincidence I’d be on the shores of Lake Michigan, looking northwest, where there happened to be a comet that I might be able to photograph. If the sky cooperated, and if I could figure out those pesky camera settings.

The first night there wasn’t much of a sunset. But it was pretty.

Though the rain stopped that first afternoon, the sun set behind a bank of clouds. Definitely no comet watching that night.

I wasn’t too worried, I had two more nights, and the forecast said we’d have beautiful, clear weather. So I slept my first night in my friend’s bunkhouse, a screened building with a comfortable bed from which I could hear the waves lapping at the shore and the birds singing in the morning. And during the night I could check the sky without even getting out of bed.

The perfect guest house.

It was marvelous.

The next morning dawned clear and beautiful.

The weather looked promising early in the day.

We went for a walk on the beach, enjoying blue skies and sparkling water.

Just a touch of cloud out there on the horizon. Maybe tonight will be comet night!

I got to put my feet in my lake, and that always makes me smile. And of course I picked up a few stones, it’s impossible not to. In fact I think it’s a scientific fact that you must pick up stones while walking this beach.

Modern, abstract art shimmers in the clear water of Lake Michigan.

As evening approached we noticed a bank of clouds hanging low along the horizon. But we hopefully set up down on the beach, me with my camera, my friend with her telescope.

That bank of clouds might be a problem.

And we waited. The sun set. It was pretty. But the clouds obscured the comet, so we concentrated on watching a freighter go by.

I did a longish shutter speed just to make the lights blur.


And then I went to bed in my wonderful bunkhouse and listened as the wind picked up and the waves crashed. I added extra blankets and had a wonderful sleep.

The next morning, my last full day at my lake, the moon came up in the pink sky and I hoped that tonight we’d get a chance to see that comet.

The moon showed up and danced between the clouds.

Meanwhile I took some pictures in her native plant garden…

Native lilies opened the next day.

…and then we hiked through one of the county’s conservancy properties where we feasted on wild red raspberries and enjoyed the dappled sun sliding through tall trees.

Great Spangled Fritillaries.

We saw another beautiful sunset that night. But even by 11 we couldn’t see the comet, so everyone went to bed.

A cat sculpture stretches, getting ready for sleep.

I was determined to get up in an hour when it would be darker to do some star photography, even if the comet never showed up.

At midnight I picked up my camera and tripod and began to edge down the 40+ steps to the beach. I glanced to the north and there it was! A brilliant white triangle that obviously wasn’t your typical star.

The lights on the water is a boat sitting out there, probably also watching the comet. And if you look carefully you can see the second tail, a blue streak to the left of the white tail and going straight up.

I ran back in the house and got my friend and we stood there on the stairs just watching it. Amazing.

I went down to the beach and set up the camera. It wasn’t that easy to find the comet through the viewfinder, but lucky for me there was a boat out there, just under the comet and I could see it’s lights in the camera’s screen. So I pointed at the boat and shot while hoping I got the comet in the frame.

Luckily I did.

As the comet was fading I captured either a shooting star, or more likely, the space station sliding across the sky.

I shot for maybe an hour, sometimes straight up into the stars, sometimes toward the comet, sometimes including the big dipper. I didn’t have a wide angle lens to capture the big dipper in the same shot as the comet, but I was having fun anyway.

Eventually the comet faded and I remembered that the milky way would probably be to the south, directly behind me. I turned around and laughed out loud.

The milky way was waiting patiently for me to notice it.

Yep. I have to say it was an amazing night. In fact I stayed up all night, taking pictures, and then laying in bed looking at them in the camera. I think I looked at all of them at least a couple times, smiling in the dark.

By the time I was finished analyzing the images (which was stupid because they don’t look that great on the back of the camera) birds were beginning to sing. And then I saw the biggest star I’ve ever seen come up to the east.

Venus welcomes me to a new day.

Turns out it is Venus, and of course I had to set up in the front yard and try to capture that. And then the sky turned pink, even out over the lake and of course I had to run back down the 40+ steps to the beach.

Another amazing morning on my lake.

And when I finally made my way back up to the house, intent on getting a couple hours of sleep, I noticed the cat sitting in the window watching my antics.

What in the world are you doing out there lady?

And of course I had to capture that too. Not a lot of sleep, but one of the most fun nights I’ve had in a very long time. Thank you to my northern friend for sharing her amazing home, though I wasn’t inside it very much.

Can’t beat this view.

Sitting on the deck and just watching the lake is more then enough, much less a hike in the woods and a comet photoshoot…with the milky way thrown in.

And on the way home I got a couple barns to boot.

Barn #1

I’m smiling now just thinking about it.

Barn #2